Amended Complaints and Quantum Meruit – Some Illinois Reminders

Earlier (http://paulporvaznik.com/quantum-meruit-basics-illinois-law/1367) I discussed how quantum meruit is a valuable fallback or “Plan B” theory of recovery when a client has done work for someone, hasn’t been paid and there is no governing express contract between them.  Quantum meruit (translation: “as much as he deserves”) ensures that my client at least gets something where his  services have benefitted a defendant who welcomed the services or stood silently as my client performed them.

Blietz v. System Integration, 2014 IL App (1st) 132270-U examines the pleading elements of quantum meruit and the importance of assigning a monetary value to the services that form the basis for the quantum meruit suit.

There, the Plaintiff sued his former employer – an architecture firm – to recover about $300K in unpaid compensation for accounting and marketing services the plaintiff rendered for the firm.  He brought claims for breach of contract, a statutory wage payment and collection act claim and an alternative quantum meruit action.

The trial court dismissed the claims for lack of factual specifics and the architect appealed.

Held: Affirmed

Q: Why:

A: The appeals court affirmed dismissal of the plaintiff’s breach of contract and wage payment claim on purely procedural grounds.  When a plaintiff files an amended complaint, he waives objections to the court’s ruling on prior complaints.  Where an amendment is complete in itself and doesn’t refer to or adopt the prior pleading, the prior pleading ceases to be part of the record and it’s viewed as abandoned.  A party only needs to reference an earlier pleading in a footnote or a single paragraph to preserve it for appellate review.

Here, by failing to adopt or reference his breach of contract and wage count claims in his most recent pleading, these claims were abandoned and unappealable.

The court also affirmed plaintiff’s quantum meruit dismissal.  To recover in quantum meruit, the plaintiff must plead (1) he performed services, (2) that benefitted a defendant, (3) that it’s unjust for the defendant to reap the benefits of the plaintiff’s services without paying the plaintiff. 

The quantum meruit plaintiff has the burden to show the defendant received the plaintiff’s services and that it would be unjust for the defendant to retain the services without paying for them.  Critically, the plaintiff must prove his services were of “measurable benefit” to the defendant.  (¶25).

The plaintiff’s quantum meruit claim failed on its face.  The plaintiff didn’t monetize the value of his unpaid work but did say he was paid over $96K during his tenure with the defendant.  By doing so, plaintiff had to plead that he performed work that had a value over and above the $96K paid to him.  Because the plaintiff couldn’t plead work that exceeded the $96K paid him, he failed to allege that he conferred a measurable benefit on the defendant.

Plaintiff’s bare allegations that he “created value” for defendant and “greatly increased” the defendant’s company value during plaintiff’s tenure were too nebulous to survive a motion to dismiss.  Under Illinois fact-pleading rules, these bare bones allegations with no factual support didn’t provide a calculable amount of the claimed services.  As a result, plaintiff’s quantum meruit claim failed.  (¶ 29).

Afterwords:

A.  To preserve your right to appeal a dismissed count, you should reference it in the amended pleading – otherwise the count is abandoned and can’t be appealed;

B.  Quantum meruit only applies where there is no express contract or a contract formation defect (e.g. uncertain price term, duration, etc) that makes a basic breach of contract claim impossible;

B.  The quantum meruit plaintiff must do more than nakedly plead that he performed services that benefitted a defendant.  He must instead allege he provided quantifiable value to the defendant and also plead surrounding facts that show it’s unfair for the defendant to enjoy the fruits of the plaintiff’s services without paying him.

 

 

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PaulP

Litigation attorney at Fisher Kanaris, P.C. representing businesses and individuals in all types of commercial disputes.